Why Barefoot Running May Be Safer for Your Feet


There is evidence supporting the idea that
one of the key strategies to prevent a small bone fracture in the foot during running is
to not only run with a forefoot strike landing, but to run in a shoe that offers a good-sense
of the ground, or good ground-feel clarity; shoes like minimalist shoes, or barefoot-
like shoes with a thinner sole without any thick, compressible foam, gel or even plastic
underfoot materials and that’s because there’s an important distinction or difference in
plantar (plantar meaning the underfoot surface), there’s a big difference in plantar pressure
volume and intensity between runners who run barefoot or in barefoot-like shoes vs runners
who run in thickly cushioned running shoes. In other words, runners who wear thickly cushioned
running shoes may generate abnormally or unusually high doses of plantar pressure stress on areas
of the foot not structurally capable of enduring such high, heavy pressure points which may
over time boil into fracture or even shin splints, believe it or not, during running. As we so well know, injury prevention efforts
in running mainly target factors such as reducing impact by adding more layers of cushioning
to the under-foot, but what’s so scientifically interesting is that many studies (which are
linked below in the description box) have found the same basic conclusion that decreases
in ground-feel at the feet may lead to increases in abnormally high plantar pressures, especially
on the midfoot, and also the softer and the thicker the underfoot cushioning correlates
or may result in greater peak plantar pressures on the foot, thereby potentially putting more
stress on the foot during running. Things get worse, a 2011 study in the journal
Gait Posture and a 2004 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
found that abnormally high plantar pressure at the midfoot was a major risk factor for
medial tibial stress syndrome in habitual shod or shoe-long distance runners. Another compounding problem is that thick
shoe cushioning masks the feel of high impact during running, leaving runners very incapable
of truly feeling abnormal rises in plantar pressure and impact stress on the foot, and
evidence in alignment with this came from the pioneering work by Dr. Steven Robins who
found that runners who run in thick cushioned running shoes might be exposed to more plantar
impact, or more impact-assaults on the foot, because shoe cushion thickness significantly
diminishes transmission of mechanical transients which are adequate stimuli to proprioceptors. In simple terms, when you can’t feel the
ground at all with your feet due to thick underfoot cushion materials, this failure
to capture a more full sensory scope of the ground at your feet may be accompanied by
a greater downward force and a greater push force when running in these shoes, meaning
the foot may be vulnerable to landing more forcefully with greater impact generation
with the ground when ground-feel is lost at the feet and may go against the natural, impact-avoidance
default reaction that you would get if you were to run barefoot or in thin-sole running
shoes. In fact, a 1996 study in the journal Clinical
Biomechanics discovered that running over harder plantar surfaces with very minimal
underfoot protection, resulted in stark reductions of peak plantar pressure on account of the
runners reflexively adjusted their landing intensity to land more lightly. In keeping with this finding, when you run
in barefoot-like shoes, or even run barefoot, especially on harder surfaces, your initial
reaction at the feet is to reflexively land with your foot in a better position that’s
closer to your center mass with better forefoot strike precision, which taken together, helps
reduce the braking force, but also you land with less push force and you get a faster
withdrawal retraction, or removal of the foot off the ground of which the net effect is
you are better able to naturally assemble a lighter, softer, more responsive landing
strategy of the foot that may give you real protection against dangerous rises in plantar
pressure and overall, the underfoot ground-feedback can really help you reign in your worst mechanical
impulses in pounding the pavement, when you can feel the ground more fully with your feet. So adding those essential plantar or underfoot
sensory feedbacks via barefooting or with thinner running shoes can help you get a good
handle on your forefoot strike running mechanics while keeping your feet engaging actively
which is going to help speed up the process of getting functionally stronger feet that
can stand up to longer, faster, harder mileS. But the biggest takeaway, based on these lines
of evidence, we can confidently say that thick underfoot cushioning may mess with the body’s
proprioceptive circuitry; proprioception is defined as the constant feedback loop within
your nervous system that informs your brain about what position you are in and what forces
are acting upon your body at any given point in time and the body’s proprioceptive system
also plays an important role in maintaining the body’s natural mechanical defenses against
high impacts while running barefoot and this is because the underfoot is incredibly densely
populated with groups of nerves that belong to the proprioceptive system and as part of
this system, all the sensory elements that converge at the feet when barefoot, is sent
to the brain, and when the feet can feel the ground more fully, the tactile and pressure
sensations from the ground simulate directly the proprioceptive system to activate a range
of other nerves that switches on a range of muscle and reflexive responses that are key
organizers of more functional movement patterns and other biomechanical outputs that helps
produce impact-avoidance behaviors and so you don’t end up with high impact crashing
into the foot, or the leg, or the knee. This is why increased barefoot running training
fits so nicely into the role of injury prevention. But when the proprioceptive system is, in
a sense, blocked at the feet with thick shoe cushioning, it may compromise the proprioceptive
feedback loop and the default reaction in this capacity seems to be harder, forceful
footfalls; so instead of adding protection, such footwear seems to take the protection
away, by some estimates. So just remember that if cushioned running
shoes can’t reduce all the impact, how can they prevent all injuries? Obviously, there are so many variables involved
and many more to be discovered, that go into causing running-related injuries, but certain
running shoes, namely thick cushioned running shoes are on record for producing more enormous
and more immediate varieties of impacts on the feet as compared with running barefoot
or in minimalist shoes and that to help you learn to avoid pounding the pavement with
your feet when you learn how to run, doing some barefoot running training on a track
or on a smooth road, or even on a treadmill or switch to running in minimalist footwear
can really assist you in developing a landing strategy that’s so brief that certain impact
variables are not fully produced on the foot and knowing all this keeps momenting the fact
that on the mechanical front and functional strength development front, you’re always
making progress when you’re barefoot. This is why I always like to say that barefoot
running makes better shod runners which is why I always like to circle back to saying
that the enormous success that we see in the top distance runners in the world, from East
Africa, like Eluid Kipochoge, Haile Gebresallais and Tirunesh DibaBA, i could on and on, these
upper echelons of distance running have the same common domination such that the essential
features of their running style as shod runners are legitimately tied to running barefoot
during critical stages of mobility development and that’s something that can’t be overlooked
and is proof that progress may be possible if you use barefoot running as active measures
to help shape safer, more functional mechanics that sustains well at faster paces and over
long distances . So i just wanted to end on that note. I hope you’ve enjoyed the video, if you
did, feel free to hit the thumbs up button and the subscribe button if you haven’t
already because you’ll get more informed on the health and performance benefits of
barefoot running as well as you’ll get more informed on the hot-button debate: heel strike
running vs forefoot strike running. Thank you so much for listening and watching. Have fun out there on the roads and trails. Bye for now.

3 Comments

  • Good video!

  • Learn English pls. One freaking sentence for 10min. Ever heard of a full stop Jesus

  • Great video as always.

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